About a year ago, my husband and a few of our friends asked me what I wanted to do for my 40th birthday (in January 2020). “Let’s go somewhere and do something fun!” they said.
“Oh, twist my arm,” I replied as I casually pulled up the Marathon Bahamas website, which I’d bookmarked months earlier while writing an article that profiled the race because a few things had caught my eye:
- The race takes place near my birthday.
- It offers a full and a half marathon as well as a marathon relay option (there’s also a 5k that takes place the day before), so pretty much anyone who wants to run could find a distance that suited them.
- One of the official race hotels is Atlantis Paradise Island, a resort with loads of pools, water slides (woot!), lazy rivers, aquariums, and rooms at a variety of price points.
And that’s how a dozen of us from all over the U.S. ended up in Nassau the weekend before I turned 40.
Marathon Bahamas Relay
A few members of our group opted to run the half marathon, but from the start, I was all about the relay. I’d only done one marathon relay before and I’d really enjoyed it. The distance is doable, the course is well supported (because it’s gotta offer what full marathon runners need), and when you’re running as part of a team, it just brings a little something extra to the experience.
My team consisted of myself (leg 4), my husband (leg 3), and our friends Danielle and Andy (legs 1 and 2); we called ourselves the SRQ to Junkanoo Crew (SRQ is the Sarasota airport code and the race began at Junkanoo Beach). Our legs ranged from 5.6 to 7.5 miles, and while we didn’t go in with any real expectations, we managed to all hold pretty close to a 10-minute mile pace — and we looked darn cool doing it, if you ask me.
Proof: Here’s Andy finishing leg 2 and handing off to Jared. And while this wasn’t a bad place to wait for our runner to come in, it wasn’t even the most scenic part of the course.
Now, across the board, everyone on our team had an incredible time. People were friendly, the course was both gorgeous and well-supported, and every last one of us would recommend it as a fun group race-cation. One of our friends running the half even won his age group, adding to the day’s excitement.
However, it’s worth noting that relays always require some logistics, and in a race where the course is largely out and back (necessitating road closures) and more than 20 countries are represented (meaning many of us were visiting, possibly without our own transportation), those logistics get tricky. So, here are a few tips we picked up that might make things, uhh, run a bit smoother should you choose to do this relay — or a different one in an area you’re visiting.
- Be prepared to do some waiting. To catch the shuttle out to the third and fourth leg hand offs, we needed to be at the start line at 5:30 a.m. (which required catching a different shuttle from our hotel at 5 a.m.). We had a porta-potty and a nice view, but since Jared didn’t start his run until a little after 8 a.m. and I took the baton from him just under an hour later, that meant we had to cool our heels for quite some time (and I was glad to have packed snacks — although I wish I’d thought to bring a vat of coffee). This also meant that our first couple of runners spent some serious quality time at the finish line waiting for us to come in. Although, as you’ll see in a moment, they at least had some great tunes.
- Pack smart. Layers, changes of clothes, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, and, as I mentioned, snacks and drinks … think about things you might want while you’re waiting and make sure to pack them. Early runners can leave a bag at the gear check to grab when they’re done, while later runners can share a bag and hand it off at the switch.
- Have a back-up plan — aaand probably a phone plan, too. As Jared passed the baton to me for the final leg, a shuttle back to the finish line was pulling away. The driver said he’d be right back … but that was not to be the case. Jared waited for nearly an hour, but when nobody was able to provide any insight as to when (or whether) a shuttle would be returning, he and a few others wandered down the road to a resort, where someone had a car and offered to drive them back. None of this would’ve been terribly problematic, except that A) Jared didn’t have a phone on him and B) my phone wasn’t sending or receiving texts. And so, by the time he found us at the finish line (nearly an hour after I’d finished), we were … concerned. Lesson learned: If you’re relying on someone else for transportation in a relay, maybe have a plan for communication, too (not always a given in a foreign country).
Can’t Miss Highlights
When I spoke to everyone after I crossed the beachfront finish line, it was clear that everyone — even those who didn’t have to bum a ride from a local — had truly enjoyed the friendly atmosphere. Volunteers were enthusiastic, other runners were supportive, and that positive atmosphere was a big part of what made the day such a success. (The fact that we were able to take a short walk down to Junkanoo Beach, where we spent the afternoon eating fresh fish, shrimp, conch, and beer at non-resort prices also helped.)
If I could share that atmosphere with you, I would, but I can’t. I can, however, share something nearly as good …
Marathon Bahamas has an official song; one that you absolutely need to experience — and be sure to listen to the words. (Also, we probably heard it about 60 times on race day, which … may have been a bit excessive, but it made it memorable! “Let’s run, let’s go! Run fast, run slow …”)
If they ever add this song on Spotify, I’ll have it on my running playlist straight away!
Have you ever participated in a marathon relay? Have you taken a group racecation? Tell me all about it! —Kristen